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Refugees, migrants face hardship

May 23, 2013

Amnesty International has released its annual report assessing human rights around the world. In this year's report Amnesty says refugees and migrants in crisis areas were particularly vulnerable for human rights abuses.

African refugees are rescued by the Spanish coast guard
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/dpaweb

The report, which covers 2012 and was released late on Wednesday at the Amnesty International headquarters in London, said that at the start of last year 12 million people were stateless, while 15 million people worldwide are currently registered as refugees. The report added that an additional 214 million migrants live without protection of their home state or their host state.

Amnesty says these refugees, migrants, and displaced citizens, often victims of conflict or persecution, face a situation where their human rights are routinely denied or ignored.

"The failure to address conflict situations effectively is creating a global underclass," said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International, in a statement that accompanied the release of the report. "The rights of those fleeing conflict are unprotected. Too many governments are abusing human rights in the name of immigration control - going well beyond legitimate border control measures."

Cold shoulder

Conflicts in North Korea, Mali, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Syria are among the places where people are being forced to flee their homes. Amnesty's report says despite the difficult conditions they leave behind, many refugees and migrants are not welcomed with open arms in new countries.

The report gave the example of border control agreements between the European Union and North African nations meant to keep asylum-seekers out of Europe, but did not properly ensure the rights of the refugees would be respected if they were sent back home. Amnesty said refugees often live on "the margins of society" and were subject to xenophobic treatment. Conditions for refugees in detention centers were also deplored by the study.

Migrants aren't free from mistreatment either, Amnesty's Shetty says.

"Millions of migrants are being driven into abusive situations, including forced labour and sexual abuse, because of anti-immigration policies which means they can be exploited with impunity," she added in the statement.

"Much of this is fuelled by populist rhetoric that targets refugees and migrants for governments' domestic difficulties."

“Those who live outside their countries, without wealth or status, are the world's most vulnerable people but are often condemned to desperate lives in the shadows,” said Shetty. “A more just future is possible if governments respect the human rights of all people, regardless of nationality."

Lack of cooperation with courts

In addition to problems with the EU's treatment of refugees and migrants, Amnesty found that the EU continues to struggle with member nations.

Russia, although not an EU member, was singled out in particular as a nation that does not does not implement judgements made by the European Court of Human Rights.

A notable example is the jailing of the all-female band Pussy Riot, who were convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred. The trial was internationally criticised for failing to respect the women's rights.

The report also highlighted the decreasing number of countries around the world that support the death penalty, pointing out that 155 states voted to adopt the arms trade treaty at the UN General Assembly last month.

Only three countries voted against the treaty - Iran, North Korea, and Syria - which prohibits states from transferring conventional weapons to countries when the weapons will be used for crimes against humanity.

mz/jr (AFP, AP)